Does your sales team struggle to answer prospects’ technical questions?
Does your customer success team complain about misaligned customer expectations?
Do your sales and CS teams constantly butt heads?
Friction between departments is more common than you might think, and it can lead to lost deals, unhappy customers, and poor retention. But we’ve found a solution:
See, up until last year, Proposify, like many other SaaS startups, relied on the “Assembly Line” or “Hunter-gatherer-farmer” model for B2B sales.
It looked like this:
Sales development reps (gatherer) -> Account executives (hunter) -> Customer success (farmer)
SDRs, or gatherers, were responsible for generating, analyzing, and qualifying leads.
AEs, or hunters, were responsible for conducting demos, answering questions, and ultimately, closing the leads that SDRs identified.
CSRs, or farmers, were responsible for cultivating relationships with customers once the deals were closed.
And it worked. Using this model, we were able to scale to over 10,000 happy customers.
But there’s always room for improvement.
Despite our success with that model, we realized that some of our AE’s felt like they were getting blindsided by prospects’ technical questions, which was causing a drop in close rates – especially for bigger contracts. And when deals did close, our customer success team found that some customers didn’t fully grasp what our product did or what to expect once they were on board.
The problem was that our sales and CS teams weren’t working together. At least not as well as they could have been. While they had the same goal in mind – driving revenue – it felt like they were competing against one another. So in order to change their mentality from “us vs. them” to “all of us vs. the task,” we experimented with a new approach: sales pods.
What are sales pods?
Sales pods are small teams made up of cross-functional (in our case, AE’s and CSM’s), that work together to make resources more accessible in order to achieve a common goal. So instead of passing clients from one department to another as they move through the pipeline, multiple departments get involved in each opportunity from start to finish. Our new approach looked like this:
In essence, sales pods helped us break down the silos that developed when different departments worked independently and didn’t communicate effectively. While the roles themselves didn't change, the way they interacted did. Rather than each department working independently, they collaborated to create a seamless journey from first touch to onboarding and beyond:
SDRs were still responsible for generating and qualifying leads, but with insight from the CS team, they had a better idea of the ideal customer.
AEs were still responsible for closing, but became more effective because CS was there to answer the more technical questions that were holding up deals.
CS was still responsible for onboarding and managing customers, but since they were able to connect with customers and manage expectations from the start, they could help customers get even more value out of our product.
In the end, this approach helped us leverage the power of community and teamwork to reduce friction between deal stages, improve cross-functional relationships, and ultimately, drive more revenue.
We’re not going to beat around the bush. Sales pods were a massive success for us. Before we started using them, we were only closing about 4% of medium-sized deals and less than 1% of larger ones. But once we switched up our approach, our close rates skyrocketed to above 20%, especially when it came to bigger deals. Our sales velocity saw an immediate jump within the first couple months, but by the 6 month mark, it had gone from about $1000 to over $3000. Thanks to sales pods, we were essentially able to drive 300% more new business without increasing team size or driving up costs.
And that’s not all.
Benefits of sales pods
Beyond the numbers, sales pods helped us unlock some serious long-term benefits across all aspects of our sales organization.
1. A seamless customer experience
Before sales pods, customers were being passed from one department to another, with little communication between them. Each department had separate objectives that were measured in different ways, so there was little regard for the prospect/customer after the handoff. But with sales pods, each department worked together towards common objectives:
Identifying new customers
Closing more deals
Ensuring customer success
With each department focused on all three goals throughout the entire sales cycle, they were able to move customers through the pipeline seamlessly.
2. Relationships between sales and CS improved
With each department working in unison, they strived to help each other succeed instead of competing against one another.
Sales became more empathetic to the challenges that CS faced when customers were brought on board and were more willing to help plan for solutions.
AE's had much deeper access to our support team, technical resources and answers that could help them reduce friction with prospects and move deals through the pipeline faster.
Customer success was able to help SDRs and AEs better understand the ideal customer so they could avoid pursuing leads that weren’t a great fit and lay the foundation for onboarding customers that were.
3. More confidence and expertise
If sales and customer success teams don’t communicate, both parties miss out on knowledge that can benefit the sales organization as a whole. With CSMs getting involved in opportunities early on, SDRs and AEs get to listen in and learn about product and technical aspects that would otherwise be out of their wheelhouse.
On the flip side, customer success teams get the opportunity to start building relationships with prospects early on, allowing them to develop a better understanding of their business and what the customer is looking for. This added confidence gives clients peace of mind and helps CS provide a better experience during onboarding.
Sales pods were a fun experiment that proved very successful for our business model. While we focused on bringing AEs and CSMs together to create a smoother sales cycle, your goals and approach may vary depending on the needs of your business. What’s great about sales pods is that they can involve whichever departments you desire, and can be arranged around products, geography, industry vertical, or however else you see fit.
If you want to learn more about how sales pods work, the challenges we faced in implementing them, and some of the best practices we uncovered, check out the first episode of our newest series – The Closing Show. The Closing Show features the people of Proposify sharing sales challenges we’ve faced, experiments we’ve tried, and lessons we’ve learned, plus we throw in a little humor along the way!